AYODHYA VERDICT: END OF THE LEGAL, HISTORICAL, POLITICAL, SOCIO RELIGIOUS AND MORAL DRAMA OR THE BEGINNING?

By- Ipsita Aparajita Padhi

INTRODUCTION

Preceding the Bhoomi Pujan, the reverberated chants, and the laying of the foundation stone of Ayodhya Temple, there is the longest standing court battle that lasted more than a century. The dispute focused on a plot of land in Ayodhya which was of historical and religious importance to both Hindus and Muslims.

Different beliefs about the disputed site surfaced time and again, Hindus claiming it to be the birthplace of Lord Ram where Babri Masjid was constructed after the demolition of previous the Hindu temple. While the Muslim community believed the Babri Mosque was built rightfully.

In 1959, Nirmohi Akhara filed a suit seeking possession of the site claiming to be custodians of the disputed site. Following this, the Sunni Central Board of Waqf also filed a suit claiming ownership of the site in 1961. While these beliefs have remained the topic of controversy, the claims of ownership of the land by both communities led to the eventual lockdown of the place.

Finally, the 2019 Supreme Court Verdict brought an end to the long-standing civil dispute which time and again kept mixing with political undertones.

BACKGROUND

The Babri Masjid, named after Babur, which stood for years in the disputed site, was constructed in 1528 by Babur’s commander Mir Baqi. The land dispute started with the belief among Hindus that Babri Masjid was built in Ayodhya after destroying a Ram Temple. The Hindus believed Lord Ram was born at a spot where central dome of the mosque was later built. The Muslim party believed the mosque was constructed without the demolition of any place of worship and the land is rightfully theirs.

The legal recorded dispute in the site of Ayodhya dates back to 1858 when FIR was filed against a group for writing “Ram” and performing puja in the premises. This was the first documented evidence of the building of Chabutra confirming Hindus were present in inner and outer courtyard of the disputed site. [1]

In 1885, the case of building a temple in the outer courtyard was dismissed in civil court.

CHRONOLOGY OF THE CASE

  • 1856-57 – Riots broke out between Hindus and Muslims in the disputed site as a result of which a brick-wall separating inner and outer areas was built by the colonial government.
  • December, 1885 – In order to prevent riots, the civil court dismissed the suit of Mahant of Ram Janmasthan, seeking permission for building temple on outer courtyard.1934 – Dome structure of the mosque was damaged in conflicts between two communities which were significantly repaired by the colonial government.
  • 1946 – Akhil Bharatiya Ramayana Mahasabha, a branch of Hindu Mahasabha, started an agitation for the possession of the site.
  • 22nd December, 1949 – Hindu activists broke into the mosque and surreptitiously placed idols of Ram which people believed to have appeared miraculously.[2]
  • 16th January 1950 – Gopal Singh Visharad became first person in Independent India to file a suit against Muslims and government officials for right to pray and conducting puja in the inner courtyard.
  • 17th December 1959 – The Nirmohi Akhara instituted a suit before the Civil Judge at Faizabad to take over the managing affairs of the Janmasthan and the temple.
  • 18th December 1961 – The Sunni Central Waqf Board and residents of Ayodhya filed a suit before the Civil Judge at Faizabad seeking a declaration that Babri Masjid was a public mosque and for possession of the land.
  • July 1989 – Suit was brought before the Civil Judge, Faizabad for a declaration of title to the disputed premises and to prevent defendants from interfering or objecting the construction of a temple. An order for transferring all the suits to a three-judge Bench was passed by Allahabad High Court. [3]
  • 7th-10th October, 1991 – The BJP state government acquired 2.77 acres land comprising of the disputed premises and certain adjoining areas. Six writ Petition was filed before the High Court challenging the acquisition.

Babri Demolition Case:

  • 6 December 1992 – A group of Kar Sevaks destroyed the mosque, boundary wall, and Ramchabutra. A temple structure was constructed at the place under the erstwhile central dome. The idols were placed there.
  • 21st December, 1992 – Hari Shankar Jain filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court claiming that it was his fundamental right to worship Lord Ram in his birthplace.
  • 1st January, 1993 – High Court held its view that every Hindu has the right to worship Lord Ram at his birthplace.
  • 7th January, 1993 – Central government acquired 67.7 acres of disputed land in favour of Hindus by legislation called the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act 1993. It also sent a reference to Supreme Court to determine whether there was a temple at the disputed site before the construction of Babri Mosque.

Writ Petition was filed in the Supreme Court, challenging the acquisition by the government. The apex court held the acquisition as valid. Supreme Court, in this challenging case, said a mosque is not essential to practice Islam and Namaz can be offered anywhere and approved Centre’s acquisition of 2.77 acres of the disputed land.

Inadequate justice in Babri Masjid Case?

On September 30, 2020, the special CBI court concluded its investigation into the demolition case of Babri mosque of December 1992, and has acquitted all 32 of criminal charges.

The criminal case regarding Babri Demolition was on spreading enmity on the grounds of religion, giving statements which incited violence and possible criminal conspiracy.

In the trial, the evidences submitted by the journalists and witnesses were declared incoherent and inconsistent because some of them were contradicting each other and there was lack of proper original photos and videos.

2010 Verdict: THREE WAY SPLIT

In relation to the land dispute case, the Supreme Court prevented any religious activities to be allowed at disputed site.

The archaeological survey of India was given direction by High Court to carry out a scientific investigation using ground penetrating technology or Geo-Radiology at the disputed site. In 2003, the ASI submitted its final report saying some remains of an older structure was found at the site.

On September 30, 2010, the three judge bench of High Court, Justice Dharamveer Sharma, Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice S.U Khan, delivered their judgment stating Ram Lala, Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Waqf Board as joint holders of the disputed site and awarded one third land to each party. [4]

2019: THE GRAND FINALE

On 9th November 2019 the final judgment of the case was declared bringing a century long dispute to an end. The Supreme Court ordered the land in the favour of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra trust to reconstruct the Hindu temple. It allocated an alternate 5 acres of land to UP Sunni Central Waqf Board for building a mosque.

The Nirmohi Akhara suit was barred by limitation as the court declared it not to be a devotee of the deity Ram Lalla.

The Supreme Court dismissed all petitions seeking review on the verdict. [5]

DID IT DO JUSTICE TO RULE OF LAW?

The court averted a major crisis by upholding claims of the Hindu-majority. But in the process, some finer aspects of the rule of law were compromised in order to satiate the faith and belief of a community.

Rule of Law emphasizes on people to be governed equally, with just and non-arbitrary manner.

Considering the religious aspect in this case, the Court strongly affirmed the value of secularism and fraternity and significance of the Places of Worship Act 1991. In this judgment, it failed to balance between Law and faith.

It is still unclear if beliefs can be grounds for legal adjudication in a land dispute case without opposing constitutional morality. In this case, the unified territory is granted to the Hindu claimants in the end while the Hindu claimants have initially only staked claim on the outer territory.

CONCLUSION

With its golden ruling, the Ayodhya case came to an end with no aftermath outbreak which was considered a benchmark for Indian Judiciary, but in long run, it might impact the citizens of India. Maybe involuntarily it has urged minorities to lose faith in the judiciary system. In a world, where the legislature and executive are becoming majoritarian, the only option for vulnerable minorities is to repose their faith in courts. We can only hope the future outcomes will be fair and will bring back faith in judiciary system. With the acquittal of all the people suspected in demolition case, it sheds light on our inadequate justice system. What remains to be seen is how the Indian Justice system will keep the beliefs of minority community intact and do justice to them in the future. Is the current calmness in the atmosphere a sign of acceptance of the verdict or is it the calm before the storm? With the verdict being over, now government hopefully will revisit neglected developments around Ayodhya for the betterment of people.


[1] Prasant Padmanabhan, Ayodhya Verdict:  Historical, Legal, Social and Moral Implications, THE LEAFLET, (Sept. 29, 2020, 10:00AM), https://www.theleaflet.in/ayodhya-verdict-historical-legal-social-and-moral-implications/#

[2] Mamata Kumari, Case Summary: M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs vs Mahant Suresh Das & Ors, LAWLEX.ORG, (Sept. 27, 2020, 06:30PM), https://lawlex.org/lex-bulletin/case-summary-m-siddiq-d-thr-lrs-vs-mahant-suresh-das-ors/20823

[3] Rupali Pruthi, Ayodhya Verdict Out: All you need to know; Timeline of key events, JAGRAN JOSH, (Sept. 28, 2020, 08:00PM), https://www.jagranjosh.com/current-affairs/ayodhya-verdict-all-you-need-to-know-latest-updates-1573274100-1?ref=list_ca

[4] M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs vs Mahant Suresh Das & Ors, (2019), CA 10866- 10867/2010 (India).

[5] Tushar Kaushik, SC: Complete analysis of the Ayodhya Verdict including key observations, LAW BULLS, (Sept. 30, 09:00PM), https://www.lawbulls.in/ayodhya-verdict/

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